PITTSBURGH – The last couple minutes in the first half of Saturday’s season opener at Pittsburgh took on a familiar look.
After trailing the entire first half, the Panthers fed big running back Todd Shipley Jr. on a 14-play scoring drive, which sent Pitt into halftime with a one-point advantage, but the Cavaliers came out in the second half and picked themselves up off the mat.
Outside linebacker Matt Gahm ended Pittsburgh’s first possession of the second half with his first career interception. Six plays later, quarterback Bryce Perkins fired a third-down pass to Hasise Dubois, who drug a tackler a couple yards and stretched the ball across the goal line for good.
Virginia harassed Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett all night and the offense did just enough to lift the Cavaliers to a 30-14 victory. It snapped four straight losses in the series and marked the first time the Wahoos have defeated the Panthers at Heinz Field.
Perkins went 20-for-34 for 181 yards and two touchdowns and added 38 rushing yards, and sophomore running back Wayne Taulapapa led the team with 66 rushing yards and scored his first career touchdown in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand. Joe Reed led the receivers with seven catches for 34 yards. But Virginia’s defense stole the show.
Virginia shut Pitt out in the second half. Safety Joey Blount recorded both of the Cavaliers’ interceptions and one of their four sacks. He and the rest of the defense limited Pickett to 20-of-37 for 181 yards and knocked him down every chance they got.
Sophomore outside linebacker Noah Taylor got a hand on Pitt’s second punt of the game. Wide receiver Hasise Dubois pounced on it on the Panthers’ 15-yard line and set up Perkins’ first touchdown pass of the season – a 3-yard toss to running back Chris Sharp, who was streaking across the formation.
Virginia took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and kicker Brian Delaney’s second field goal of the half made with 13-7 with a little more than 10 minutes before halftime. Delaney also connected on a 45-yard field goal on the first drive of the second half to put the Cavaliers (1-0) back on top, 16-14.
Pickett ended the Panthers’ 14-play scoring drive in the second quarter with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Tre Tipton, which put Pitt up 14-13 with 38 seconds left in the half.
After catching a swing pass on third down and taking it 59 yards into Virginia territory, Pitt running back A.J. Davis first got the Panthers on the board with a two-yard touchdown dive in the second quarter.